LUCKNOW, India – Every time second-year undergraduate law students at Lucknow University open up their 14-inch Hewlett-Packard laptops, they are reminded of the generous benefactors who gave them their computers.
Sitting in a hot classroom at Lucknow University, Ankita Singh, 19, turned on a laptop and signed in. As she waited for the desktop to load, the screen flashed red. It lasted for all of two seconds, but the two faces that appeared on the screen were unmistakable: Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is the Samajwadi Party president and also a candidate for prime minister.
Another student in the classroom, Abhay Rajvanshi, 20, said the Samajwadi Party, the regional party that governs the state of Uttar Pradesh, distributed the laptops in September to fulfill a campaign promise after it won the 2012 state assembly elections.
“If I am getting a laptop, then they think — and I also think — that I have to support this political party, because this political party has given me some gift,” Mr. Rajvanshi said.
LUCKNOW, India — As Narendra Modi gains momentum as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for prime minister, attention is turning to Muslim voters in the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, who have been regarding him warily because of ties to right-wing Hindu groups that have attacked Muslims.
Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats in the lower house of the Indian Parliament at stake in the national elections, the most of any state in India. Muslims make up around 18 percent of the nearly 200 million people in the state and have historically provided support for the governing party in New Delhi, the Indian National Congress, and the regional Samajwadi Party, which is currently running the government in Uttar Pradesh.
Regional parties dominate Uttar Pradesh and could siphon off votes from either the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Indian National Congress so that neither gets an outright majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., has won the parliamentary seat of the Lucknow district for the past several terms. Other districts in Uttar Pradesh are less settled.
Winning over Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh requires a more complex strategy than just fielding a Muslim candidate, because they don’t vote as a bloc and they don’t base their vote solely on religion.
LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, was buzzing with activity in recent days as Sanatkada, a well-known nonprofit in the city for women has been hosting its annual handicrafts festival, where vendors from across India come to sell their goods.
Aside from shopping, the festival, which began in 2010, offers musical and theater performances, panel discussions on literature and music, carnival rides for children and food from some of Lucknow’s most popular eateries. This year, however, the festival organizers decided to use this popular event to talk about one of the biggest topics in India today — feminism.
Vishwajyoti Ghosh, a graphic novelist and artist based in Delhi, is curator of the book “This Side That Side: Restorying Partition,” an anthology of graphic narratives from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. His first graphic novel, “Delhi Calm,” was published in 2010. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, Mr. Ghosh spoke with India Ink about the significance of collaborating with 48 different contributors, and what it means for younger generations to retell the history of Partition in a graphic format.
What do you think it is about the graphic element of the anthology that makes the stories of Partition come alive?
Mukulika Banerjee.Credit Courtesy of Sonia Paul“Voting in elections is considered sacrosanct by a large majority of Indians,” Mukulika Banerjee writes in the introduction to her new book, “Why India Votes.” That observation forms the backbone of the anthropology professor’s work, an ethnographic study of 12 sites in India during the 2009 general elections, which explores the motivations and opinions of Indian voters on a range of issues related to the electoral process.
As part of the Jaipur Literature Festival’s theme “Democracy Dialogues,” Dr. Banerjee, who is the associate professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics, participated in several discussions on India’s social and political evolution. While conversations and questions during the panels often zeroed in on this year’s political players like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and the Aam Aadmi Party, India Ink spoke with Dr. Banerjee about the other factors motivating voter turnout, and why the act of voting is so meaningful for the majority of Indians.
Why India votes is a huge political question, but your book is actually an anthropological book and an ethnography. What is it about ethnography that lends itself useful to the study of politics?
The raised sign for Avadh Point on Victoria Road in Old Lucknow is missing two letters, the “O” and the “I.” The “D” in Avadh also hangs precariously, as if it is ready to become the third. The three-story building was constructed in 2005, but it stands dilapidated, walls thinning and paint peeling, as if it is as old as the Awadh culture it’s named after.
Since Nov. 6, the start of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar and the period of mourning observed mostly by Shia Muslims, several figures are making their presence known at Avadh Point and other areas deemed sensitive in Lucknow for the next two and a half months: police officers.
“All the mess starts from here,” said Zeeshan Ansari, 21, a Sunni Muslim and recent college graduate who lives in the neighborhood. He was sitting on the patio of Avadh Point, gazing at the fruit vendors, shared auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and throngs of people sharing the road in front of him.